Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day weekend climbing trip!

I spent the weekend on an Outdoor Adventures trip to Owens Gorge - it was fantastic.

We met at 5:30 am. It was dark and drizzling, and despite my decaffeinated state and lack of sleep, I was pretty darn excited. We packed up the 8-person van and set off on the 6-hour drive to Owens Gorge. We had two guides and five participants. Everyone was friendly and good-natured, smart and interesting. We got along exceedingly well, and it was nice to have such a small group.

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We arrived just before noon and went straight to the gorge, pulled out our gear and our lunches, and hiked down. By 1:30, we had two ropes set up and were climbing our first routes!

We climbed 4 routes altogether on Saturday afternoon - a 5.7, a 5.8, and two 5.9s. It's a very different experience from climbing in a gym. Most notably, there isn't any brightly colored tape telling you where to put your feet and hands. You have to think for yourself how to get from the bottom of the top, the result of which is a *great* sense of satisfaction when you figure out how to get past a problem spot. It's incredibly rewarding.

Here's Lisa climbing up a 5.9, one of the tallest routes we did.

After a few hours, we packed up, found a campsite, and made burritos for dinner. Then we ate cookies and chocolate around the campfire until 10, when we were very ready for bed.

We were up around 7, and were at the wall climbing by 10. We got four runs in (a 6, two 8s and a 9) before a rain shower made the rock too slippery and cold to climb. (Our fingers were numb by the time we made it to the top.)

By the time we had packed up all our gear, the rain had cleared. We probably could have kept climbing, but we were pretty chilly, and our fingers were worn out, so we hiked out and went to a natural hot springs. We soaked our cares away and then headed into the town of Bishop. We visited a great gallery, founded by Galen Rowell, a very talented climber and photographer. We stopped at a cafe for the hot chocolate we'd been craving all day, and then went home to our campsite... just as it started to drizzle again. We set up a shelter over the picnic table and spent the rest of the night huddled under it. It rained steadily all night long.

Since it rained all night long, we couldn't go climbing at Owens Gorge in the morning. Definitely a disappointment. We packed up camp, and headed off on a short hike to the top of a bluff to see some petroglyphs. I'm not sure how old they were, or what they meant, but they were incredible. We spent some time puzzling over them, but didn't come to any conclusions. (Photo coming soon.) The sun had come out by then, so we continued down the dirt road about a mile to the Happy Boulders - one of the best bouldering locations in an area famous for good bouldering. We had a great time poking around, trying this and that, abusing our fingers one last time before we had to head home. It was nice and sunny out, and we were very happy boulderers.

At noon, we loaded up the van and drove the 6 hours home, about as tired as we had been on Saturday morning. It was a fantastic trip - I really like climbing outdoors, and I was fortunate to have such great traveling companions.

Here are a few more photos from the trip.

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